A tractor plants in a field north of Marshalltown, Iowa

ISA District Advisory Council member Garrett Ballard spent Wednesday planting north of Marshalltown. (Photo: Joseph Hopper/Iowa Soybean Association)

Cruising through planting season

April 28, 2021 | Joseph Hopper

The earliest seeds have been in the ground for the better part of two weeks as planting season continues across Iowa. Ahead of the start of May, several Iowa Soybean Association members reported nearing their halfway point in the season. A few outliers said they have finished planting.

Despite hesitancy due to cold soil temps, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reported that 6% of the Iowa soybean crop had been planted by April 25, 3 days ahead of normal. Iowa farmers had 20% of the state’s corn crop planted by then, one day behind the 5-year average.

“Most reports that I am hearing are farmers are one-third to half done with the crop  they started planting, with a small group planting beans ahead of corn,” says Iowa Soybean Association Field Services Program Manager Drew Clemmensen.

Farmers are making planting progress due to good soil conditions in Clay County, according to ISA District 1 Director Chuck White. White, who farms near Spencer, expects more than 60% of the overall acreage in his area had been planted.

“Things in Clay County are really rolling,” says White. “A lot of guys started early, and we’ve had good soil conditions, some of the best ever.

He added, “Guys started planting soybeans last week, not a high percentage of beans planted.”

Clemmensen says the acres of corn and soybeans planted around the April 11 federal crop date experienced cold and wet conditions during the critical 24-to-48-hour period. Those will be the fields to watch as they begin to emerge, he says.

A common concern shared by Iowa farmers in 2021 is the need for rain with a forecast featuring little of it. USDA data for the week ending on April 25 shows Iowa’s topsoil moisture levels rated 6% very short, 28% short, 64% adequate and 2% surplus. Subsoil moisture levels rated 10% very short, 35% short, 54% adequate and 1% surplus.

“Seeding depth becomes more critical as we try to plant into soil moisture but at the same time trying to avoid disease and emergence issues by planting too deep,” says Clemmensen.

“We’ve got enough moisture to get things started for both corn and soybeans,” White says. “When it comes to late summer that’s when we’re going to have to get timely rains to get the crops finished.”

‘Always optimistic’

Despite the lack of rain in the forecast, farmers are happy to be planting in 2021.

“It’s always a great time of year, to see the seeds going in the ground and we’re getting some of the best prices we’ve seen for seven or eight years,” White said. “We’ve got some really good income potential for the year, that’s for sure, if we get the crop. If we’ve got the big crop and a great price that’d be the best of both worlds. On the other side of it, if you have a great price and no yield you’re still on the short end of things. We’re always optimistic I guess; farmers are always optimistic to have a new chance every year to do things better than you did the year before.”

Here’s what other farmers are saying:

Garrett Ballard, Marshall County

We're about 75% done with corn and beans. Should finish up corn Thursday and soybeans Friday unless we get rain. We waited for the warmup and didn't start planting until late last week.

Noah Fedders, Sioux County

A lot of soybeans have been going in over the last week and corn starting going in Thursday and Friday. Conditions have been very nice with ideal soil moisture levels for planting, although we are still very dry overall.  On our farm we decided to start with soybeans since ground temps were in the 30s and 40s last week. My April 20 planted soybeans were already starting to sprout on Saturday, April 24.  We finished planting soybeans Saturday evening and got rolling on corn Monday. There has been a 10-to-15-degree difference in no-till soybean ground with full residue compared to a baled-off field. We will see if that has any effect on emergence or yield in the fall.

Dave Struthers, Story County

Down to 80 acres of beans to plant at Tuesday’s (April 27) end. Eighty acres of corn left also. Good moisture at planting depth, top is dry, especially with the wind and now, warmth. Two 40-foot planters and two operators really cover a lot at 5 mph.

Tony Lem, Polk County

Fall-made strips have been ideal to plant into, spring strips and any worked ground has been very dry and hard. 85% of our corn is in, around 20% of beans are done.

Tony Lem and daughter, Molly, finish up a day’s work as the sun sets. (Photo by Tony Lem)